Monday, February 25 By: John Campbell
American Producer Emancipator would take up the mantle of Electronic Artist in 2006 with his self-released full-length LP titled Soon It Will Be Cold Enough. Not long after his self-release would he be discovered by none other than Hydeout Productions, a prolific label owned by the legendary Japanese Producer Nujabes. This album is the debut of Emancipator and was more than worthy of attention. Let me first preface this review with an opening remark: I will be reviewing the re-released version that was released under the Hydeout Productions label rather than the self-released version that features different variations of the songs in a different order with two extra tracks included. It is important to me to review the professionally released version to note the quality of Hydeout Productions release.
If you were to ask me four or five years ago what I think of this record, I would have told you that I’ve never heard of Emancipator. Because honestly, I hadn’t, no one around me that listened to electronic music ever mentioned him. It was usually Tycho or Blackmill that got a lot of attention (at least from my music friends). Now, I am astounded that Emancipator isn’t talked about, because there is so much innovation in his productions that it’s just foreign to me that no one’s heard of him. Nevertheless, this record’s sound is that of an electronic artist giving digital characteristics to acoustic instruments.
If you’re looking for a mostly instrumental record that explores electronic and ambient themes cohesively, look no further. In “Lionheart” there’s this cascading piano and supporting clean guitar part later supplemented by strings. You will hear a lot of this instrumentation throughout the record, but always used in different ways. The craziest part about the emotions conveyed through the tracks is that they are anomalous to me. In “When I Go” (Vocals by Thao Nguyen) you have the only vocally present track in the album, and despite that, the instruments betray one another’s emotions.
To me, the piano parts that are typically beautiful or somber are supported by a percussion part that cancels that feeling out. It’s like an emotion without shape or form. It’s always difficult for me to put the moods of these tracks into emotional context, and that’s one reason that I love them so much. Even with vocals in “When I Go” I still don’t get a describable emotion, it’s just anomalous passion to me and it’s so relaxing. In my favorite track “With Rainy Eyes” there’s a somber piano part with pizzicato strings that give this feeling of a day following the loss of someone. At least, that’s the feeling I’ve always had. That is betrayed by the bassline and drum-kit, and it leaves this relaxing blend that sounds like it should have rain in the mix. There are lo-fi effects and needle on vinyl parts throughout samples, and with Emancipator being a more underground artist, this doesn’t surprise me. This is a common practice with a lot of indie and underground artists, and I like it in this context because nostalgia is used for relaxation rather than just to sound vintage.
In other songs like the title track “Soon It Will Be Cold Enough To Build Fires” you will have these electronic effects that take the sounds of the vocals or instruments and cut them up, making for this ominous feeling. In “First Snow” there’s these engaging instrumental hooks that use simplistic melodies in clever ways. This sound is almost an electronic cliché, but it never sounds played out or overdone on here. There’s always new musical ideas and themes fading in and out to keep the listener engaged. “Anthem” also does this with its repetitive foundation parts. Every instrument over the main foundation does something new and different all the way through the end of the song, but maintains excellent thematic cohesion all the way through.
The production of this album is nothing short of perfect. There wasn’t a single moment where a written part didn’t come through to find my ears or attention. Despite there being so many parts to keep track of, there was unprecedented cohesion in the mixing. I think we can attribute some of that to the hand of Nujabes. Given Hydeout Productions discovery and involvement with the re-release of this record, some of the tracks were touched up and professionally mixed. However, it should be noted that most of the work on this record was done by Emancipator himself, and that he is an excellent producer. Emancipator understands how to put many different parts together in a way that makes them all bounce off each other, and you will hear that in every track. Electronic music is hard to get right, because there’s a lot of elements that have trouble fitting together in mixes. Not here, though, the mixing and production is this record’s strongest point.
“Soon It Will Be Cold Enough” is one of the most superb albums I’ve ever hooked onto. There wasn’t a single track throughout that lost my attention or interest (which is impressive for a mostly instrumental record). Emancipator’s debut album was miles better than most artist’s debuts, and I hold this record in a special place in my heart. It’s only fitting that a talented artist like Emancipator caught the attention of Nujabes and his label. You will not regret listening to this record.
Favorite Tracks: With Rainy Eyes, Soon It Will Be Cold Enough To Build Fires, Lionheart
Least Favorite Tracks: N/A